First in the Rio Grande Valley

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at South Texas Health System McAllen was the first in the Rio Grande Valley when it opened more than 25 years ago and continues to offer advanced neonatal care.

Just a few steps from the labor and delivery suites of the Maternity Center, intensive care services performed by skilled surgical teams are available if your baby needs special attention. The special care nursery is family-oriented and provides a high level of medical and nursing care, as well as compassion and caring attention to infants and families.

Contact the NICU at 956-971-5669 and the Intermediate Nursery at 956-971-5791. NICU visiting hours are 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

The NICU is a special place in the hospital for newborn babies who need extra care because they were born prematurely, had difficulty during delivery, or have unusual medical conditions during their first days of life. If your baby has to stay in the NICU, the length of his or her stay will depend on the severity of illness, weight, gestational age and the readiness of you and your family to provide care at home. Family members can get training to help them prepare to take their baby home.

What Happens in the NICU

The NICU is a quiet space equipped with advanced medical technology and a caring professional staff, all inside a sterile environment. The unit’s design allows staff to keep a constant, watchful eye on babies in the NICU. Being in the NICU can be a complex experience because each baby’s condition is unique.

After they reach a diagnosis, physicians and nurses will develop a treatment plan that includes medication and feeding schedules. Some babies may be too sick or too small to eat on their own. Others may need extra high-calorie diets because they are growing so rapidly and may be fitted with feeding tubes.

Your baby’s neonatologist will order tests, such as blood or urine analyses, to help track his or her progress. In some cases, infants may have IV lines to help avoid too many needle sticks. Arterial lines may be used to monitor your baby’s blood pressure or the oxygen levels in his or her blood. In addition, some babies need ventilators to help them breathe.

Babies in the NICU often need to be kept warm, so your baby may have a radiant heater over his or her bed. Your baby may also be placed in an isolette, which is a small, enclosed bed with temperature control.

Phototherapy is often used to treat infants who have infections or jaundice. Jaundice, while not uncommon in newborns, can lead to permanent and disabling health consequences when not diagnosed and treated promptly. Contact your pediatrician immediately if you notice yellowing of your infant’s skin or eyes.

If you don’t understand any of the monitors, tubes, tests, machines or procedures being administered to your baby, please ask his or her primary nurse for an explanation.

Specialized Healthcare Team

When your baby is in the NICU at South Texas Health System McAllen, a team of healthcare professionals who are trained and experienced in neonatology will care for him or her.

Your baby's healthcare team will include:

  • Charge nurse: responsible for overseeing all nurses on the floor, making assignments, and addressing family concerns. The charge nurse is also the point person for solving issues at hand
  • Primary nurse: your baby's designated nurse
  • Neonatologist: the physician who leads your baby's healthcare team
  • Respiratory therapist: specializes in assessing and treating breathing disorders
  • Nutritionist: an expert in infant dietary concerns
  • Physical and occupational therapists: help manage movement issues and enhance physical and functional capabilities
  • Pharmacist: prepares your baby's medications
  • Lab technicians: handle laboratory testing
  • Social worker: helps you with additional support and connects you with resources
  • Chaplain: here for counsel, comfort and religious guidance
  • Specialists: neurologists, cardiologists and surgeons are available for exceptional care

As you visit your baby each day, you'll talk most often with the NICU nurses to check your child's progress, or to find out about latest developments and customized treatment plans.